Saturday, May 23, 2015

Take a Stand - Part 2

Stand and footjoint
This week, our repair technician, Rachel Baker, received a call from a customer who had been experiencing mechanical problems with her footjoint.  The flute was shipped to Powell, and when Rachel opened the case, she found that there was a flute stand kept inside the footjoint.  The extra length of the stand also made for a very tight fit in the case, which ultimately was not good for the mechanism

Although there are some stands that are advertised as being small enough to keep inside the flute, it's actually more of a hazard than a convenience to store the stand this way.  You never want to leave anything in your flute while it is in the case (click here to read more in our previous post titled "No Extras Needed"), as the risk for damaging your flute is very high.  Also, if you'll recall from our previous post titled "Take a Stand" (click here to read it), one can inadvertently damage their flute if they are not placing it on the stand properly.  Now we can see that there is another situation where a stand could cause damage even without any motion of the flute going on/coming off the stand!  So, although it may seem convenient to have a stand that fits in the flute, it's still best to keep that stand stored separately and simply enjoy the convenience of its small, slender design.

The stand may fit in the flute, but you don't want to keep it this way in the case!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Flute and Focal Distonia

This week, we stopped by the repair shop and found a very different Powell in for an overhaul.  Repair Technician, Rachel Baker, told us that the flute belongs to a customer who has focal distonia, a condition which limits her ability to curve her left hand and fingers.  According to the National Institutes of Health, focal distonia in musicians is often called "musician's distonia," and it is described as follows:
Musician's dystonia is a form of task-specific focal dystonia characterized by muscle cramps and spasms that occur while playing a musical instrument. This condition can affect amateur or professional musicians, and the location of the dystonia depends on the instrument. Some musicians (such as piano, guitar, and violin players) develop focal hand dystonia, which causes loss of fine-motor control in the hand and wrist muscles.
The customer allowed us to share the photos of her flute, which you will see below.  Although it is a Powell, the modifications on the instrument were done outside of Powell. As for the task of an overhaul on the instrument, Rachel told us that it should be pretty straightforward since the extensions and "crutch" for the left hand are removable.  She said that this is particularly helpful if the customer wants to sell the flute at any point.  You'll notice below that the thumb keys have also been modified, and although these modifications (unlike the others for the left hand fingers) are permanent,  Rachel said that she would still be able to remove these keys to perform the overhaul.

With the modified flute, the customer is able to play comfortably despite her focal distonia.  She hoped that we would share the images so that others with the condition will know that it is possible to continue playing!  For more information on focal distonia, follow this link to the full page on the National Institutes of Health website.

Front of flute has removable extensions and "crutch."
Rachel demonstrates the left hand position with the extensions.
Thumb key modifications.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Spring Cleaning

It's that time again -- the flowers are blooming, the temperature is rising, sun is shining, and many of you may be doing a bit of spring cleaning around the house.  It's a great feeling to get everything nice and clean, enjoying fresh air blowing through the windows as you work.

It's also a great time to give your flute a bit of spring TLC -- tender loving cleaning.  We are all very conscientious about swabbing our flutes out thoroughly and wiping the outside down with a cloth after playing.  However, there are a few spots that might get overlooked, and since we've shared posts on these in the past, we took a bit of "inventory" of our cleaning posts to help you!  Below is a list of flute areas to target in your spring cleaning, along with some corresponding posts.  Click on the italicized titles below to view the posts:

Th Embouchure Hole:
A Case of  the Gurgles

The Embouchure Hole and Key Holes:
A "Hole" Lot Cleaner

The Riser:
Cleaning the Riser

Cleaning Your Plug-Os

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Headjoint Dents and Dings

Dented headjoint
Same headjoint after repair

Picture this scenario: you've accidentally bumped your headjoint against something (like a stand), and panic sets in. You question what to do -- call your repair technician?  Figure it's not so bad and leave it?  It may be difficult to decide -- after all, how can you tell if it's going to be a problem or if it can/should be fixed?  We spoke with Powell's repair technician, Rachel Baker, to find out!

Rachel said small dents and dings are not usually a problem. However, if the dent is so big that it is constricting the flow of air, you definitely need to have it repaired.  If your headjoint is made from solid precious metals like sterling silver or gold, it should not be a problem to repair.  However, if you're headjoint is plated, Rachel says the dent could be removed and "look better but never fully 'disappear'."

So, can all dents be repaired?  If the dent is on the headjoint tubing, most of the time, yes.  If the dent is on your lip plate, well, unfortunately, that would not be able to be repaired (see previous post on dented lip plates by following this link).  If you've dented the tenon, you'll definitely need to call your repair technician and get that fixed right away.  Rachel says a dented tenon needs to be repaired so that it will fit into the flute properly and not leak air.  Most tenon dents can be repaired.  According to Rachel, "If it's a dent, yes.  If it's a complete crunch, no..."  To read more on how tenon dents are repaired, click the following post titles to read more:

Dented Headjoint
Dented Tenon - Part I
Dented Tenon - Part II

Repair Technician Rachel Baker removing dent in tenon.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Any Flute?

We were recently asked if our repair shop accepts only Powell flutes and piccolos or if other brands could be sent as well.  The short answer is, "Yes, we accept all brands."  In fact, you'll see that written on our website repair scheduling page, which you can visit by following this link.

So, any brand will be okay, but we thought there may be some exceptions.  We checked with Rachel, and she gave us some clarity.  She said that yes, she can repair other brands, but it's most sensible to send only handmade flutes (of any brand) to Powell for repair.  For instance, if you happen to have a beginner flute, you should probably check with your local repair shop for service.  The repair technicians should be able to service a beginner flute and charge service fees that (also) would typically be less than for work on a handmade flute.

Modifications on other brands are something that Powell would not be able to do.  If you have a flute of a different brand and need new keywork or would like some type of mechanism modification, you would have to send the instrument to the original manufacturer.  As we've seen in a previous post (follow this link to read it), it's not possible for other shops to order Powell parts (since each part is handmade), so the reverse is true for Powell when it comes to other brands (the original manufacturer would have to make the part and do the repair). 

Finally, Powell would not be able to re-cut headjoints from other brands.  If you have a Powell headjoint, recutting it is typically not a problem (although you would need to have the headjoint evaluated first just to make sure).

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact our repair office.  Rachel, our technician, can be reached by phone at (978) 344-5164 or by e-mail:

Friday, April 17, 2015

Backing Out of It

Yellow circle around a mechanism screw on a Powell SonarĂ© 601.

Have you ever had a screw back out of the mechanism tubing on your flute?  On a student's flute?  If so, you are certainly not alone!  Powell's Director of Marketing, Christina Guiliano-Cobas, has a private studio, and one of the younger students had this issue.  The screw was backing out of the tubing on the thumb key, specifically.  So, what do you do? Well, we checked with repair technician Rachel Baker to find out...

Rachel told us that this is an easy fix.  You can get a small "eyeglass screwdriver kit" and use the screwdriver to turn the screw back in place.  As you'll see from the video, she holds the key steady, braces the screwdriver against her thumb, and then screws in the screw!  It doesn't go in very far, and she told us that you'll feel when it's tightly in place.


However -- a word of caution.  As soon as a screw backs out, Rachel says you should call your repair technician and make an appointment.  She told us, "If a screw backs out, there's a reason for it."  In fact, it is the sign of a problem that should be addressed by the technician.  Rachel says that screws back out because something is preventing the key from turning freely on the mechanism.  It could be a few things, like too much key oil that has gotten "gooped up" in the tubing or some kind of bend or snag in either the mechanism tubing or inner steel.  If a student accidentally bumps his/her flute against something like a stand or drops the flute, it could bend the mechanism tubing and/or steel.   This causes "drag" in the key that might not be noticeable by the player, but as s/he continues to play, the motion will push the screw out.

So, don't be afraid to carefully screw the backed out screw into place -- for now.  When you take your flute to the repair technician, s/he will be able to smooth out any snags (literally and figuratively), and you should be all set!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Piccolo Overhaul

This week, our repair technician, Rachel Baker, was working on a piccolo overhaul when we stopped by to see her. Specifically, she was working on overhauling a Custom kingwood piccolo with silver keys.  Hmm.... Piccolo overhaul? We were very curious, and (of course) we wanted to find out more, so we asked!

Rachel says piccolos are usually overhauled much less frequently than flutes because (in comparison) they are played less.  It can be several years between overhauls for a piccolo. The overhaul includes changing all the pads, bumpers, and key adjustments.  She also oils the mechanism and replaces the tenon cork.

Another important part of the piccolo overhaul is the oiling of the body and headjoint.  Rachel oils both the bore and the outside of the piccolo.  This is best left to a professional, but Rachel tells us that it is okay for piccolo owners to oil the area of the headjoint around the embouchure since it gets so much wear.  You'll want to be very careful if you oil this area, and Rachel recommends pure pressed almond oil.  She says that if a little bit gets in the embouchure hole, you can simply wipe carefully around the edge with a Q-tip.